Agenda item

Future Arrangements for Worcestershire Shared Services Joint Committee and Worcestershire Regulatory Services


Following on from the Worcestershire Shared Services Joint Committee meeting held on 19th February 2015, where Members approved for consultation purposes the proposals for creating and delivery a sustainable regulatory partnership for Worcestershire; the Committee considered a further report which detailed the findings of those consultation events held.


The Chairman announced that, in light of the revised recommendations and legal implications, as detailed in the amended report tabled, she was prepared to adjourn the meeting for approximately ten minutes to allow Members to read the revised document.


Accordingly the meeting stood adjourned from 4.45pm until 4.55pm.


The Acting Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services introduced the amended report, as tabled, and in doing so provided a brief update, for the benefit of new Members to the Committee, on the proposals presented at the Worcestershire Shared Services Joint Committee meeting on 19th February 2015.


The Acting Head of WRS informed the Committee that the Worcestershire Shared Services Joint Committee had been established in 2010.  The governance model at that time was based upon established arrangements for shared service delivery operating within the County and was structured to allow for the addition of other shared services.  The original business case for WRS was founded on all partner authorities having closely aligned policy positions and service levels.  WRS had been extremely successful and had delivered savings to all partner authorities.  However in recent years there had been increasing financial pressures and challenges within the partnership arising from differences in partner authorities service requirements, driven by the individual financial pressures on each partner authority.


Members were further informed that Capita had withdrawn from the strategic partnering process as they felt that since WRS was already so efficient they would be unable to meet their own financial requirements.


The consultation events that took place did not reveal any objections to the proposals, for creating and delivery of a sustainable regulatory partnership for Worcestershire, and were broadly supportive of the proposals.  WRS staff recognised the need for change and was supportive of the proposals.  The main concerns highlighted during the consultation events were about the future level of trading standards service provision. 


The extant partnership agreement signed on 1st June 2010 contained provisions enabling partners to leave the partnership. However, these were cumbersome and complex to invoke. Notice periods had to be given and the terms of exit determined by agreement of all partners. This included arrangements for departing partners to bear the financial consequences of their exit.  These provisions were never utilised in relation to this or other similar shared services using this basic agreement.


Legal advice was that it was more appropriate in these circumstances not to rely upon these provisions but for the partners to dissolve the current partnership by mutual agreement and immediately constitute a successor partnership of the six Worcestershire districts.  A service level agreement between the new partnership and the County Council for provision of trading standards services would be entered into as the basis for continuing provision of these services recognising the significant investment made by the County

Council in the original partnership and in WRS. 


Dissolution and reconstitution was not a matter within the competence of the Joint Committee and required a decision from each partner authority.  Taking into account the time period required for this, it was proposed that these changes take place at the beginning of the municipal year 1st April 2016. This timescale also enabled WRS management and officers of the partner authorities to make the necessary detailed administrative arrangements.


The report detailed the key changes to the partnership and partnership agreement, with Appendix 2 to the report, detailing the principal terms of the proposed new partnership agreement. 


The current WRS senior management structure had been in place since inception when the shared service had both a larger complement of staff and budget.  Reducing senior management numbers had been progressive as the WRS budget and workforce had reduced year on year. The departure of the Head of Service in January 2015 provided an opportunity to re-examine the senior management structure in light of the proposed new partnership and the opportunity to create a leaner much more focused senior management structure aligned to a commercial approach to the delivery of the service.  Appendix 4 to the report detailed the proposed future senior management structure.


Further discussion followed with several Members expressing their concerns with regard to Part 1 – 4.1, as detailed in Appendix 2 to the report, which stated:


Amend to ‘one member’ from ‘two members’ in line 1 and delete ‘at least one of those members from’ ‘authority’ from line 3.  Insert ‘The member shall be the portfolio holder responsible for regulatory matters’


Councillor M. Hart, Wyre Forest District Council proposed an amended recommendation, seconded by Councillor E. Stokes, that Part 1 – 4.1, as detailed in Appendix 2 to the report, be deleted in its entirety.


A lengthy debate followed with differing views being expressed as to the advantages and disadvantages of either reducing to one member from each partner authority on the Joint Committee as set out in the report, or retaining the current arrangements of two members per partner authority which would be the outcome under the proposed amendment.


During the debate Members made reference to a range of issues including:-

·         That the Joint WRS Scrutiny Task Group had recommended a reduction to one Elected Member with arrangements for substitutes. It had been felt that this would improve strategic decision making and become a more efficient business model for WRS.  The Task Group had been aware of concerns that even though two Members were nominated onto the Joint Committee some Members had little knowledge of the concept of WRS.


·         That in some partner authorities it was felt that there would be a benefit to retaining two Members on the Joint Committee, to increase democratic participation in the governance of WRS.  Reference was made to this being of importance to partner authorities where political control can change. 


·         That the report which addressed the findings of the Joint WRS Scrutiny Task Group should be adopted without any changes to enable a more coherent customer focused service going forward.


·         That circumstances have changed since the involvement of the WRS Joint Scrutiny Task Group in that the direction being pursued at the time was a partner arrangement with an external organisation, whereas the current proposal was for WRS to continue without any outside partners and with a reduced number of local authority partners.


Members continued with the debate, and it was proposed by Councillor M. King, Wychavon District Council that after a period of twelve months from April 2016 the composition of the Joint Committee could be reviewed.


The Chairman sought clarification that Members felt in a position to vote on the recommendations as detailed in the report tabled and recommendation 2 as proposed by Councillor M. Hart, Wychavon District Council, as detailed in the preamble above, with the inclusion that the membership of the partnership be reviewed after a period of twelve months from April 2016.


The Chairman further informed the Committee that the decision would have to be a unanimous decision, as detailed in the Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership agreement.


RESOLVED that the outcome of the consultation with partner authorities, Worcestershire Regulatory Services staff and stakeholders be noted.



(a)  that the current Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership is dissolved by mutual agreement on 31st March 2016;  

(b)  that a new Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership comprising the six district councils is created on 1st April 2016 in accordance with the terms set out in Appendix 2 (as amended); and that the composition of partner authority member representatives on the Joint Committee be reviewed after a period of one year;

(c)  that  the new Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership enters into a service level agreement with Worcestershire County Council for the provision of trading standards services in accordance with the terms to be agreed by the Acting Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services;

(d)  that all existing contracts and service level agreements between the existing Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership and  the other local authorities are novated to the new Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership;

(e)  approve the new management structure for Worcestershire Regulatory Services, as set out in Appendix 4 ,  for consultation with staff and recognised trades unions; 

(f)   that following consultation, authority be delegated to the Acting Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Committee to finalise the future management  structure and undertake recruitment in accordance with the terms as set out in the Worcestershire Shared Services Partnership Agreement; and

(g)  to establish an appointment sub-committee comprising three Members of the Joint Committee; an Executive Member from the Host Authority and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman supported by officers, as detailed in the legal implications contained within the amended report tabled at the meeting. 

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